By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
DENHAM SPRINGS – Patti Higginbotham was at home when her husband Tom walked in with a special delivery from the heavily flood-damaged worship center at Don Avenue Baptist Church.
The pews had been destroyed by the current of the Amite River, which ran 6 feet high through the facility, and the pulpit was flipped on its side, she said. But the waters had lifted the Lord’s Supper table and moved it out a side door of the worship center, around a corner in the hallway and turned it 90 degrees against the flow to keep it in place in the back corridor – with the church Bible and offering plates intact.
Some might dismiss such a blessing as a coincidence, Higginbotham offered. But she believes it was a symbolic gesture from God.
“I just thought of Jesus’ declaration in Matthew, that ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away,” she said. “I immediately sent a text to everyone in the church to encourage them with the news.
“I believe it was a way God was telling us He sees us and knows about our situation in this disaster.
“He preserves His Word in our hearts,” she said, “but He also saw fit to preserve the tangible Word, the church Bible.”
When the congregation met in a sister church for worship Aug. 21, they took up tithes in the preserved offering plates, and the protected Bible was on display for all to see, she said.
“That’s just about all He spared, but we feel that His hand was on that,” Higginbotham said. “And we claim it as just something special from Him, a special word from Him that He has not forgotten Don Avenue Baptist Church.”
Now the congregation is asking Southern Baptists not to forget them, either.
They have relied on Southern Baptists to hold the rope before, having served on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten from 1991 to 2003 as missionaries with the denomination’s International Mission Board.
Pastor Tom Higginbotham, was has been serving on an interim basis for two-and-a-half years, told the Baptist Message the church did not have flood insurance and contractors gave an estimate of $254,000 just to clean out and sanitize the facilities.
“It’s just cost prohibitive for us to spend that kind of money,” Higginbotham said. “We are asking for churches to come and volunteer to gut these buildings.”
“I believe with 20 or so helpers, we can haul out the pews, strip out the flooring and take out the drywall in about two weeks,” he said. “If we can get it down to where we can sanitize everything to protect against mold, we will be able to start putting together the resources to rebuild, ourselves.”
He also hopes to get some volunteer skilled labor to supervise several specific electrical, plumbing and flooring tasks.
Patti Higginbotham said despite the enormity of the situation she and her husband are not discouraged.
“Our people have been praying and there is nothing they won’t pray for,” she said. “We have seen people healed of cancer. We have seen God work in so many ways.
“When this happened, I told Tom I don’t know of a people anywhere who would be more primed for God to show up and do something immeasurably more than we could ever ask and imagine,” she said. “And we are waiting for Him to do that here. And we believe He will.”
Tom Higginbotham asks any church with available workers to mud-out the Don Avenue Baptist Church facilities to contact him by phone, 225.360.5145.